It has been a summer of change again at Swilly Park and the natives are seeing a new Swilly Rovers in action this season.
A Donegal News Ulster Senior League Cup clash at Fanad United on Sunday afternoon (kick-off 2pm) will bring Swilly face-to-face with some familiar faces.
Swilly have bid adieu to the likes of Tony McNamee, Kyle Black and Jordan Toland, all of whom lined out for Fanad last weekend in their Intermediate Cup defeat to Bonagee United.
Laurence Toland has signed for the champions, Cockhill Celtic, while Dylan Hegarty and Brandon Toye don the colours now of Rathmullan Celtic in the Donegal League.
“Unfortunately we lost a few players to other clubs,” says Swilly Rovers coach Marty McDaid, one of the mainstays of the Ramelton club.
“We’ve taken in a lot of young players, so hopefully they can step up to the plate. It has been a building process for us in the last couple of years, so hopefully the young lads can slot in and keep the building going.
“When you’re in an area like us, it’s a problem with a lot of teams clustered around.
“Cockhill, for example, only have one club in the area in the Senior League, but we’re surrounded by other clubs. It is competitive for players and you need to be out early.”
Swilly manager Gerry Crossan has added goalkeeper Sean Friel from Letterkenny Rovers.
Kennedy Boachie-Ansah, Conor Duggan, Ciaran McHugh, Eamon McHugh and Michael McHugh are among the other new recruits.
The rumour mill has had Swilly’s name in its blades for some time now, but the club has stayed in the Ulster Senior League ranks in spite of strong suggestions to the contrary.
McDaid says: “For such a big name club like Swilly, you want to stay at a high level for as long as you can.
“If it was a case where we dropped down, you could get on a slippery slope and it would be even harder to get players. I’m glad the club stayed in the Ulster Senior League.”
And, though it might be difficult to see some of their own don the red and black verticals of Fanad, among other kits, McDaid insists that Swilly will keep on going.
Swilly finished at the foot of the standings in the League last season. They drew their opening three games of the campaign but, perversely, their only points thereafter came via wins against Cockhill and Derry City Reserves, two the League’s leading lights.
Indeed, their win over Cockhill was the Inishowen side’s first USL loss in a 72-match sequence going back 1,638 days to 2012.
McDaid says: “On our day we’re a great footballing side and we try to create plenty. Unfortunately we couldn’t get a full squad out a lot of weeks and it made things more difficult.
“Again, you look at Cockhill who can have the basis of the same line-out every week, which is needed at a club. They have it to a tee now.
“If you have a few bad results, it’s hard to get men out to training, whereas if you’re winning there it’s a lot easier. The attitude is a lot better from all players if you’re winning games.”
In 2013 and 2014, under Jason Gibson’s watch, Swilly won two Knockalla Caravans Senior Cup finals.
In the League Cup, Swilly have been bridesmaids, with defeats in five finals, to St Catherine’s in 1990, Letterkenny Rovers in 2002, Fanad United in 2005 and 2007 and, most recently, to Cockhill in 2014. They did beat Fanad in the 1999 final and were awarded the Cup in 1998 when, with Swilly 5-0 up at half-time, Derry City refused to come out for the second half.
Swilly can’t advance to the semi-finals of the League Cup but will begin their Four Lanterns Ulster Senior League campaign on Sunday-week at home to Cockhill.
On the season ahead, McDaid says: “A successful season for us, with all the young boys coming in, we’ll get beaten in games, but so long as we’re not getting hammered. You don’t mind one or two-nil. You want to be competitive in most games.
“For the season, we want to be tough for teams to play. We’d be hoping for a mid-table finish, if we can.”